By Kelsey Hulbert
The eleventh annual Gifts for Winona event will provide gifts to over 1,600 local children and elderly in need this holiday season.
Spokesperson Ann Merchlewitz said Gifts for Winona is humbling and teaches students the importance of being philanthropic. “Students learn what it means to give from your heart and expect nothing in return,” she said. All of the gifts are given anonymously.
The gifts will be distributed Dec. 17. SMU community members are encouraged to participate by taking a tag from any of the trees, purchasing a gift and returning the gift to the tree by Dec. 12. It is recommended that $35 be spent on each gift.
Merchlewitz said her favorite part of Gifts for Winona is being able to shop for the person in need. “The people are so grateful that others are so selfless and kind,” she said. The gift recipients get to celebrate Christmas festivities with caroling, cookies, hot chocolate and people dressed up in Santa hats as the gifts are distributed.
As the numbers of families in need grow, Gifts for Winona hopes to reach even more of those in need. According to the Winona Food Shelf, there has been a 17 percent increase in the number of Winona families using its services.
The giving trees are located at the three Severson Sinclair stations, Walmart, the Winona Public Library, the Winona Post and the Security State Bank in Lewiston, Minn.
The Gifts for Winona, composed of SMU faculty and staff, is partnered with the Winona Volunteer Services, Winona Post and Winona Radio.